Inside Voice # 1

Struggle – verb: to proceed with difficulty or with great effort*

“You could never understand my pain.” This is a common phrase I hear a lot.

I think deep down a vast majority of us feel unseen, unheard, and misunderstood. We search for connection, but feel like no one could ever understand our pain, or losses, what we have been through. And to an extent that is true. How we experience things is unique, but what we experience can be universal. Right now is a prime example. The world will remember this pandemic. We are all going through it. How we experience it day to day is unique to us, but so much of the what is happening to us is the same. Yet, it must be human nature to compare because we can’t seem to help it.

A few days ago, I was listening to Brené Brown’s podcast, she was interviewing David Kessler, an author and grief expert. During the interview he started talking about how people compare grief. For example, a grieving mother’s pain is greater than a grieving daughter’s pain, and he basically said that we can’t compare grief because “your grief is the greatest grief.” Why? Basically, he postured that the greatest grief is our own because it is the most significant amount of suffering we have endured up to that point in our lives. That truth resonated through me like a I had been hit with a tuning fork.

It has been so difficult for me to write about what I am feeling and experiencing during this time because of all the suffering I know other people are enduring, all while my family is safe and healthy. But listening to David Kessler reminded me we are all grieving something because as he defines grief, it is the loss of something, the death of something, it reminded me that we are all feeling loss. Some may be missing the loss of the school year, the loss of normalcy as we knew it, we are all learning how to cope with Shelter in Place (SIP), or with whatever we may be faced with in new ways. And what we are living through is one of those defining moments that there will be forever a before and after. We will say things like, “remember when we used to shake hands and hug strangers everywhere before the pandemic.”

Our first responders and essential workers are awe-inspiring, self-sacrificing humans whose stories are lifting me up and breaking my heart on the daily. We cannot thank them enough for what they do to help the rest of us. There isn’t a day that I am not thinking about their ability to put others first and what they must be encountering on a daily basis.

There are times I want to keep things light and funny, but I think about what people are grappling with, and it seems like if I do that, I am not being considerate enough. I want to address the death, loss, and gravity of the situation, but I get so overcome with emotion, I can’t seem to pick myself up off the couch and genuinely go into a downward spiral of despair, and that isn’t going to help anyone.

So, I wanted to start this post by acknowledging that I understand that there are so many people across the globe who are suffering and struggling and the people that are assisting others, saving others, and are on the front lines have my utmost and deepest gratitude. But to document this authentically for myself, I may have to keep things a bit lighter moving forward, even if this post stays a bit heavy.

Also, I want to recognize that the shelter in place isn’t safe for everyone, but I think it was the best choice for the majority of our population. While that doesn’t negate the danger, some people who are in abusive situations may be facing I think those in the hardest-hit areas of the country would definitely agree that shutting things down was the right choice. I think it’s funny that we feel because we are in a democracy that we were automatically given the right to chose what is best for us. We want that right, but just like a parent, sometimes our leaders have to make difficult decisions that they think are best for us. It is easy to throw stones, but I am going to side with our governor on this one. I think Gavin Newsom did what he thought was best for our state and the people in it, and I don’t think it was an easy choice. I think it was a weighty choice and continues to be a difficult one.

On to more mundane topics of discussion.

What is my family doing in all of this?

I did shut down my in-person office visits. I have been doing sessions over the phone. It has been good, but also more taxing than usual. The energy it takes out of me seems more daunting than it was previously. I am sure that is because of my own energy, my clients’ energies, and then doing what I do all mixed together. Plus my sensitivity to the hurt that is in the world right now, and there is a lot of crying on my end by the end the day. It is also hard when people ask the impossible of me. There are people who have no boundaries and think I have all the answers, or that spirit does, and that just isn’t true. There are no definite answers, there is only what is best in the moment, and we have to find that for ourselves, no one in this world or the next, besides God, can give us that. We can find comfort from others, but we can’t find definite answers to the universe. At least I don’t believe that is possible in this existence.

My husband has been working from home. He likes his commute, and he is definitely working 9-5, but I think this week, it is getting hard for him to not be in the office with some of his co-workers.

The kids are doing really amazing. I am so impressed with their resilience.

My oldest son is so on top of his schedule, his classes, and what is expected of him at school. That part has been effortless. He is even trying to learn a little Japanese. Some mornings, he spends trying to relearn how to play songs on his keyboard and strums his guitar at various times throughout the day. However, his need to play video games with his friends for hours on end has been harder to manage. We have non-screen time hours, and that has helped, but I still think he is on his devices too much; it is just hard when that is also his social outlet. How can you reduce his contact from his friends even more than it already is? He is such a responsible kid. I am hoping we can help him understand balance during this time.

My daughter’s transition to distance learning was reasonably seamless. She was already at a school where everything was digital. Her school is paperless, so textbooks are online or digital, and classwork is submitted digitally already. She was up and running within days of the SIP (Shelter in Place) order. Her phone and iPad were all propped up on her desk, and she was typing away while working with classmates on assignments on day one. Obviously, she is definitely having a more difficult time with the social aspect. She misses her friends and wasn’t planning on returning to that particular school in the fall, so she is rethinking that now that she missed out on the closure of the year. We are just playing it day by day. We have both shed tears over her heartbreak that she won’t get to finish out the year with her teachers, classmates, or on the peaceful campus. I am pretty sure she also misses the food. Our home lunches don’t quite compare to the farm-fresh, chef-curated meals her school offers. She has had some Zoom calls with friends and played on Houseparty the other day with two girlfriends. But she is still lonely.

For the twins, I threw my teaching hat back on and downloaded several units from Teachers Pay Teachers and have been teaching writing, math, science, and reading activities. I also have a geography unit we will likely start in the next month or so. I struggle with the online games and practice, but I am trying to incorporate that as it is part of what their teacher is assigning. We have also been baking, doing science experiments, some art projects, playing outside, bike riding, and walks.

The oldest of the twins is having trouble with his anxiety. We have been working on tools and techniques he can use to self soothe. They seem to be working, but it crushes my heart that he worries so much for being only nine years old. I have been open and honest that adults are feeling the same way he is. It is natural to be worried, this is the first time many of us have ever faced anything like this, but we list what we are doing to keep us all safe, and that seems to help.

The younger of the twins is less anxious, but finally, let out some sadness yesterday as he misses his friends and soccer. We even had a family discussion about how you just need to cry sometimes so you can release that emotion. It can help you feel a little better. Both boys have Messenger kids and FaceTime, so they have been able to connect with classmates over this time period, but I know it isn’t the same.

Of course, when the younger kids said they would have liked to have been over at Noni and Papa’s (my mom and dad’s) when this started so they could have been stuck there for months, it hurt my heart just a little. I told them they would miss me, and one of the twins said, “Oh, we have messenger kids mom, we would have talked to you that way.”

I am trying to make it fun, but I guess not enough apparently. But that is the plight of being the parent, you just aren’t appreciated or cool until they understand what being a parent is like.

To keep my own sanity, I am reading. Thankfully I have been a part of two book launches. The first Jen Hatmaker’s Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire. (You can preorder it here.) The second, Live, Love, Now by Rachel Macy Stafford. (You can preorder that book here.) Both have been uplifting, introspective reads. I am also reading, Little Fires Everywhere and watching the series on Hulu. That has been fun. I may have also got a little caught up in Veronica Mars, which is way too young for me, but the Good Place ended and I miss Kristen Bell. What’s a girl to do?

I have been exercising. But like I told my one of my friends the other day, if I hadn’t created the habit of working out before the SIP, it would have been hard to start because my unworthiness gets the best of me in times like this and motivation vanishes because I just think I will be fat and ugly forever and nothing will help! I know that those are unkind things to say to myself, but in the past, those words and the energy to combat them leave me depleted. Then exercise seems insurmountable. So if you feel guilty for not working out right now, stop it. Just stop it. Whatever you can do is enough.

Writing has been a struggle. I want to be a writer so much, but the voices in my head that tell me I am not enough, even though I can quiet them everywhere else, here in this writer space they remain unchecked.

  • “You have nothing valuable to add.”
  • “You are too wordy.”
  • “You haven’t had enough pain to write in a way that resonates.”
  • “You aren’t entertaining enough.”
  • “You aren’t honest enough.”
  • “When you do tell the whole truth, you hurt people’s feelings.”
  • “Just shut up.”

I can hear you through the internet; I know I am not being nice to myself. I get it. I promise. And on top of that, I asked a friend to answer herself with love the other day after painting hurtful words her brain was shouting at her, I guess I need to do the same.

  • “Your experience is worthy enough to share.”
  • “Your words can take up the space they take up.”
  • “You can be a writer with any life experience; talent isn’t measured by pain.”
  • “Your words are enough; if people like them great. If they don’t, they don’t. Helping one person is more than enough, even if that person is you.”
  • “You are a solid gold truth-teller; it is your default.”
  • “You are kind, and you are honest. Your words always have the best intentions, and that means something.”
  • “Write – let your heart be free on the page.”

And so there you have it. I will write a little each day, show up here authentically and offer what I can. It’s all any of us can do.

It is my sincerest wish that you are well and finding ways to cope with the new normal.

Sincerely,

10 thoughts on “Inside Voice # 1

  1. Hi Michelle! So great to hear you and your family are well! And have to tell you again..you have such a talent with words.. I connected, laughed, agreeing, and found it all just made me feel normal … thank you..
    I if possible would love to reschedule a phone session..
    Do t know if you still can do Kristi, Ann and myself?
    I’ve been wanting to ask..
    Please take care, and continue to write that special way you do from the ❤️…
    Donna ( cuschieri)

    1. Thank you, Donna. I will email you about the phone sessions. I hope you are all doing well.

  2. Thank you Michelle! You got this. Thanks for the advice. My opinion – It’s not “normal”. We will return to normal and better for the experience. It’s a great time to hug and love your family as soon this will end and we will be back at it … whatever “it” is …. Love you!!!!

  3. Michelle…regarding your writing… I ALWAYS read whatever you write. Do you know why? Because you have the uncanny ability to CONNECT through your insight and words that so many people can relate to. I can’t encourage you enough- you NEED to write! Yours is s perspective that most of us wish we had, and because we don’t share your gift, your knowledge truly brings peace to people that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to find! It’s your knowledge that people long to learn…. the, as you say, wordiness, etc… well, that’s what editors are for! Your naked truth and eloquence in which you are able put into words should be shared! I believe so many people would benefit from your unique perspective! Trust me, I know about self loathing… I am and always have been my own worst critic/enemy! You’ve got to quiet that voice and know your writing is worthy, beautiful and relatable!

  4. Rene you are such a love. Thank you so much for supporting me so fiercely. I am so fortunate to have people like you that read my blog! I am so grateful for your kind words and encouragement. It means more than you know. Thank you.

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